Three Cuts: Wood stymies 'Stros; Braves net 2nd straight win
The rebooted version of Alex Wood looks just like April-May version. In his return to the Atlanta rotation on Wednesday, the southpaw dominated the opposition and sparked the Braves to a 3-0 win over the Astros.
Over the last two seasons in the majors, spanning 108 innings, Braves lefty Alex Wood (three hits, zero runs allowed vs. Houston) has a starter-only ERA of 3.08.
Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports
By Jay ClemonsFOX Sports South
Here are three things we learned from the Braves' 4-0 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday, a briskly paced game that yielded only eight hits from both squads.
1. It should surprise no one that Alex Wood stifled the opposition in his rebooted starting debut
For starters, the Astros (33-46) currently hold bottom-five rankings with cumulative runs, hits, doubles and batting average.
Secondly, in two seasons with Atlanta, Wood has starter-only tallies of a 3.08 ERA (through Wednesday), 1.28 WHIP and sparkling K-BB rate of 102/32.
And third, the pitching-rich Braves didn't have to re-convert Wood back into a starter before the All-Star break. The club could have easily kept Wood (6-6) in a valuable relief role through mid-July, knowing he would easily stay under the prescribed threshold of 160 innings for the season.
But sometimes you've got to roll the dice on a long-term standout who's ready for short-term glory; and Wood (three hits, zero runs allowed, four strikeouts vs. Houston) should be a healthy lock to stay in Atlanta's five-man set of Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Wood, Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana through September.
And let's remember: This grand plan of stretching out Wood's innings in the minors (early June) was in place long before Gavin Floyd incurred an elbow fracture against the Nationals last week.
If anything, Floyd's injury/Wood's promotion just brings more clarity to a potentially dicey situation where no Braves starter truly deserved to get bumped, or demoted to the minors.
Unfortunately for general manager Frank Wren and his staff though, it likely diminishes Atlanta's necessity for trading Santana and Harang (both on one-year contracts) before July 31.
2. This one might have gone on forever if Justin Upton wasn't in the lineup
OK, so Tommy La Stella gets the credit for Atlanta's fourth (and final) run, getting B.J. Upton home on a simple groundout (eighth inning).
But if Justin Upton doesn't register a sacrifice-fly RBI in the second inning (scoring Evan Gattis) and launch a prodigous homer to right-center in the 7th (scoring Jason Heyward) ... maybe Astros starter Collin McHugh (nine strikeouts) goes the distance against the Braves.
Heck, maybe McHugh pitches into the 10th if Justin Upton doesn't get scrawled into Fredi Gonzalez's lineup card.
Of McHugh's seven frames, the Braves sent four or less hitters to home plate five times. The Houston righty also notched three innings of multiple strikeouts.
2a. Freddie Freeman's early exit (hit by pitch -- elbow) has the look of a precautionary move ... and not a seminal 'freakout' moment
Preliminary reports indicate Freeman (1 for 3 on Wednesday) didn't require X-rays after leaving the game to injury.
Even so, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, it marked the first time all year Freeman hadn't occupied first base for a full inning ... which seems rather absurd (in a good way).
The Braves have had 16 "blowout" games (spread: five or more runs) this season. That aside, even tough, dependable assets -- like Freeman -- need a day off every now and then.
And yet, it took a stinger off the proverbial "funny bone" to bump him from the action.
Hope Freeman enjoyed that "rest," since the Braves only have one off day (July 3) until the All-Star break.
3. The Braves have done a nice job treading water for the month of June
In most divisions, a 10-12 record would put contending teams in a substantial hole in the standings.
But with Wednesday's victory, the Braves (40-37) now trail the first-place Nationals (41-36) by one game, an enviable spot for a club that has the Astros, Phillies, Mets (twice), Diamondbacks and Cubs -- all losing teams -- on the docket leading into the All-Star break.
Have you looked at the Braves offense's numbers for June-only?
Heading into Wednesday, Atlanta ranked 25th in runs, 26th in doubles, 21st in RBI, 25th in strikeouts, 25th in on-base percentage and 22nd in OPS for month ... and the latest effort of four runs and five hits won't tick the meter upward.
(For the month, Atlanta averages just 3.8 runs per game.)
The OBP ranking is particuarly galling, since Atlanta nets a paltry .296 for the month. In fantasy baseball, you wouldn't even consider drafting or acquiring a player with an OBP under .300 ... and the Braves have an entire cluster of sub-.300 guys in the lineup.
There is a notable upside here: For June, the Braves and Nationals -- both World Series contenders -- possessed an identical OBP heading into Wednesday; and the Marlins and Phillies ranked below both clubs in that crucial category.